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My Take: As we shrink government, let’s grow charitable giving
March 27th, 2012
03:00 PM ET

My Take: As we shrink government, let’s grow charitable giving

Editor’s Note: Glenn Beck is a radio and television host and is founder of The Blaze, a news and opinion website, and GBTV.

By Glenn Beck, Special to CNN

I have never felt particularly charitable on April 15.

Instead, I typically feel like the victim of the most sophisticated burglary in world history. Yet it is on Tax Day that we learn a lot about the giving nature of our political leaders, at least those who release their tax records. Those documents provide a lens into politicians’ financial priorities and benevolence.

While the American people certainly don’t have a “right” to see the tax returns of any private individual, the public has grown to expect that those running for the highest office in the land will voluntarily allow us to view their filings.

Each election cycle, the media and general public take voyeuristic pleasure in examining how candidates made money and the charities they supported before knowing that the national microscope would be on them.

According to his tax records, President Obama gave about 14% to charity last year, a laudable amount by any measure. However, that’s about 12 times the rate he gave before he arrived in the Senate in 2004 and over 35 times the rate at which he gave in 2002 (when he managed to donate only 0.4% of his quarter million dollar income).

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This raises questions about how much of the president’s recent charitable contributions can be chalked up to political calculation.

When charitable giving is at a high rate for an extended period of time, as is the case with Mitt Romney, the media tend to ignore the trend. While nearly every outlet on the planet wrote about Romney’s 15% income tax rate when he released tax filings earlier this year, almost none covered the 15 % he gave voluntarily to charity.

Explainer: Mormon tithing

(While Romney and Obama lead the current presidential pack in personal giving, they are troublingly the only two remaining candidates supporting a partial elimination of the federal deduction for charity, which would cost non-profits far more than either man could personally give in a lifetime.)

Rick Santorum, whom I firmly believe would be the best president out of the current crop of candidates, does not back down when questioned about the influence of faith on his life. But the devout Catholic has understandably faced some criticism due to the fact that his charitable giving, about 3% of his income in recent years, lags behind both Romney and post-rise-to-national-prominence-Obama.

While Santorum’s donations compare favorably to the average American, they’re not up to the levels that many would expect from a man of such deep faith.

It should be noted that Santorum is a member of the Roman Catholic Church, which does not require a specific 10 percent tithe, as many other traditions do.

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Regardless, it’s fair to wonder why Santorum hasn’t willingly given more - which is why I recently asked him about it.

While noting that many of his charitable acts, such as volunteering time and raising money through speaking appearances at charitable fundraisers, are not reflected in his tax returns, Santorum admitted: “I need to do better and I should be better and I fell short.”

In comparison to what other politicians have been caught doing, this is admittedly a minor offense. But it’s encouraging that Santorum takes it seriously.

At the end of the day, the lesson - that it’s important to pitch in and give to help those in need - doesn’t just apply to presidential candidates; it applies to all of us, but particularly to conservatives.

Although studies have shown that conservatives already give more to charity than their liberal counterparts, the need is still great and requires much of everyone who is able to assist.

The idea that individuals are the key to helping others is a conservative one. It’s why I have never been shocked at Vice President Joe Biden’s lack of charitable giving over the years.

Biden averaged giving 0.2% over an entire decade of six-figure incomes in the Senate, 1/13th of what Santorum is criticized for today.

Unlike President Obama, Biden’s low charitable giving is a picture of stability. Even under the microscope of the Vice Presidency he still only gave 1% to charity last year.

And yet this is oddly consistent with his political philosophy. Progressives believe the government does a better job with your money than you can. So, why give any money to charity? Why doesn’t President Obama just give an extra 14% to the government?

It’s the responsibility of individuals to help others. Mercury One is a charity that I started in 2011 that attempts to take that morsel of ideology and turn it into action. The goal is to show that the American spirit of giving, while already far more significant than any other developed nation, still has plenty of room to grow.

When it comes to charity, Americans need to stop saying “Yes, we can” and start saying “Yes, I can.”

We face tough economic times ahead. I believe that we must shrink the size and scope of government or we will face national economic disaster.

But it’s not just about making the government smaller. As some of these giveaways from Washington disappear, American individuals must step in and make up the difference.

Savings in government waste and inefficiency can only go so far. It’s up to all of us to demand of ourselves that we pick up the slack.

Nowhere in the Bible does Jesus command us to elect a government that will take our money under threat of imprisonment so that bureaucrats can figure out the best way to help people in need.

But as so many on the left have pointed out, Scriptures do direct us to help the poor. Yet God puts the responsibility on us, not on the government.

Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians says that "Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."

I think the use of “not grudgingly or under compulsion” eliminates the possibility that he was talking about the IRS.

This should serve as motivation for all of us to do more personally. Unless you’re already feeling “cheerful” every year on April 15.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Glenn Beck.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Money & Faith • Opinion

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soundoff (1,093 Responses)
  1. Domøkun Giotto

    Giving to churches simply perpetuates the greatest risk that faces our civilization: religion (and I mean christianity as well as any other). Just listen to Santorium's drivel and you understand.... He represents the Christian Taliban.

    March 28, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
  2. Jenn

    I wonder if he would say the same thing if charitable donations weren't a tax deduction????

    March 28, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
  3. The Real Tom Paine

    I'm sure that before Glenn hit the jackpot of inciting the ignorant, he probably did not give squat after the LDS took their cut of 10%. Please, Mr. Beck, tell the truth about your charitable donations prior to sobering up.

    March 28, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
  4. mm

    HOMESCHOOL23...isn't it naptime?!

    March 28, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
  5. The Real Tom Paine

    Geez, and I thought we were going to get another lecture on the new Caliphate, or how the president has a deep-seated hatred of whites.

    March 28, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
  6. JoJo

    While I commend Beck for advocating charity (even if he does it mostly to make political points), if people like Beck and Santorum are such devout, outspoken Christians, why were they not vocal in support of the long-standing Vatican and Christian position that the War in Iraq violated Christian Just War Criteria from the beginning, and vociferously denounce the draft-dodging, war profiteers and religious hypocrites who started it? Why did Beck argue that a problem with our military is that it is too "humane" (abu Ghraib, waterboarding, the recent massacre of kids, etc.)? The Bush Doctrine of pre-emptive wars of choice and the use of torture is in direct repugnant contradiction to the teachings of Jesus (turn the other cheek, blessed are the peacemakers, he who lives by the sword will die by it, love your enemies, forgive seventy times seven times, etc.)

    "The concept of preventive war does not appear in The Catechism of the Catholic Church. There were NOT sufficient reasons to unleash a war against Iraq. ……It was right to resist the war.” Pope Benedict XVI

    “It is essential not to lose sight of the moral dimension of war. ……..The War in Iraq did not even come close to satisfying the requirements of a just war.” Ron Paul

    Religions’ stances on the War in Iraq;
    http://www.beliefnet.com/News/2003/03/Your-Religions-Stance-On-Iraq.aspx

    March 28, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
  7. GodPot

    If we could allocate our tax dollars on our filing each year I think that would solve any charity debate issue. Let me write in what percentage of my taxes I want to go to infrastructure and transportation, what percent for education or health care, what percent for defense. You let me pay my taxes into education and infrastructure and you guys down south can send it all to the military or your Church or anywhere you feel you need it, though I wouldn't recommend cutting your education funding, your dumb as shlt already.

    March 28, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • Truth from sane people

      That approach depends on the collective wisdom of individual ignorance. We would have starvation and outstanding NASCAR speedways if people choose their charity.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • Southerner

      First of all, it's "you're" not "your". Shame on you for calling someone ignorant.

      Secondly, thanks for over-generalizing the entire Southern population as military-loving Conservatives.

      Finally, your idea is dumb.

      K? Thanks.

      March 28, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • Realist

      GodPot
      "If we could allocate our tax dollars on our filing each year..."

      I like it. Perhaps we, as a society, will be mature enough someday (soon) to go there. Maybe, as a start, we could just fill out a "wish list" on the tax form and let government "by the people" have more of a voice.

      March 28, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • Realist

      p.s. could be another example of how "Payers change things" 🙂

      March 28, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
    • Put yer mouth where yer money is

      Yes. Payers change things.

      (Not that those with more money should rule, but it is a fact of life that money talks and changes things - sometimes for the better... and sometimes not)

      March 28, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
  8. mm

    Is this moron still around? Who cares what he thinks, says or does?
    NEXT?!

    March 28, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
  9. mm

    Is this moron still around?
    Who cares what he thinks, says or does?
    NEXT?!

    March 28, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
  10. Glenn Beck

    Words to live by: Never, ever listen to a thing I say. Never.

    March 28, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
  11. BALD EAGLE

    I AM HAPPY TO GIVE WHAT I CAN AND DO. BUT THEIR IS NO TAX BREAK UNTILL YOUR GIFTS TOTAL OVER 7 % OF
    YOUR INCOME

    March 28, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
    • KJC

      That is incorrect. It has nothing to do with the % of your income and entirely to do with the dollar amount you donate. There is no tax break unless you itemize your deductions. And if you itemize, then you cannot take the "standard" deduction of $5800 for a single person or $11,600 married filing jointly. So it only benefits you to itemize your deductions if they will exceed the "standard" deduction. You can't get both. So if you do give a lot to charity (more than $5800 per person), then you can itemize and are deducting for money that actually left your pocket. If you don't give, you just get the standard deduction for the fun of it (probably originally designed to be a standard of living minimum).

      March 28, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
  12. steve

    Definition of a conservative – Someone who believes in giving their money to charity!

    Definition of a liberal – Someone who believes in giving your money to charity!

    Nuff said!

    March 28, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • JoJo

      Definition of a NEOconservative – someone who believes in pouring your money into lie-based unnecessary warfare and crooked Wall Street Bankers.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • Forgive Steve, for he is Dumb

      The stereotypical tripe from Steve. Pathetic. Worthless tea-ba99in' post.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • Tom Smith

      Without conservatives there would be no NASCAR or professional wrestling. Nuff said!

      March 28, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
    • mm

      Definition of conservatives: giving money to charity for the tax wrtie-off.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • The Real Tom Paine

      How much did you give, Steve? Since you seem to think your politics makes you more virtuous, please tell us how much? Or do you live in one of those Red States that take more federal dallars than you send in? Typical rightie hypocrite.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • steve

      I gave more then your VP. Don't need your forgiveness. Already got Gods. Now go understand it for yourself. Also, I don't support the military and world wide police actions. Prefer Ron Paul.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
    • KJC

      Actually, no one gives money to charity "for the tax write-off," because you can only write off the taxable amount of the donation, which is about 25%. if I have $6000 I could either keep $4500 and pay $1500 in taxes, or give all $6000 away and the government will agree not to take me the $1500 for the amount that I no longer own. So let's see who gets the better deal – the one who kept $4500 or the one who kept $0? Yes, you get a tax write-off (so as to not be taxed on the money you no longer have), but it's insignificant compared to how much you would have if you'd just kept 75% of the money for yourself and paid the 25% tax.

      March 28, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • KJC

      Meant to type, "...not to *tax* me the $1500..." You get the point.

      March 28, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • steve

      Live in the bright red State of California, who just took $10k in income tax from me this year and still wants me to pay more for my kid's Cal State education then Harvard charges.

      March 28, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
  13. CharityRegulator

    If you think government wastes money, check out the actual statistics on how much of the contributions to charity are actually used for public benefit. Most money goes to salaries and 'administrative expenses'. That they don't have to pay taxes is a crime...most of them exist to create jobs with high $ salaries for themselves.

    March 28, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
    • Sybaris

      Right. Just ask Joel Osteen or Benny Hinn.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
    • steve

      Righty oh. Just ask the California Teachers and Prison Guards Union.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • Truth from sane people

      Absolutely true, and churches do the same scam with their "charitable donations."

      One of the most egregious examples in recent memory was how the Red Cross handled the flood of donations in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • Southerner

      84% of Goodwill donations go directly into employment and training programs for people with disabilities and other barriers to employment.

      Also....when did California Teachers and Prison Guard Unions become charities?

      March 28, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
    • steve

      Exactly, that what I as a Californian would like to know. Also, check out those impoverished Cal State and UC system administrater's salaries.

      March 28, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
  14. homeschool23

    Republicans don't want to shrink the military because their are many threats to our safety. Grow up, there are really monsters who want your women to wear burkas and you to pray 3-5 times a day and will kill you if given the opportunity. You will never sit around and drink coffee at Starbucks with those fools. And as for giving to charity....ridiculous, most of it is syphoned off to executives just like the government but there are not any laws to protect you in private enterprise. The charitable organizations have had the last 2000 to take care of the poor and have yet to do it. The churches who claim they need to be the ones the people come to always have a criteria and if you don't meet it, you don't qualify. The criteria is usually that you are like them., not gay, not unwed, not a drunk or drug addict.and love Jesus. I love Jesus but He commanded us to take care of the poor with NO STIPULATIONS of drug rehab or getting married. Probably because they stoned to death those sort of people but the point is that the Christians were told to do it, and they haven't and have PLENTY of time to do it. So if you are really serious about getting people off the dole, then you better start having a lot more programs than a Wednesday night supper and AWANA program.

    March 28, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
    • Tom Smith

      Wearing burkas and forcibly raping you with a medical instrument before performing an abortion are all the work of religious government intruding in your life. As soon as the government is using religion as its guide, we all suffer.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
    • JoJo

      The problem with the Republican war-profiting chickenhawks pouring money into the military while they take it from everything else in this recession is they have enthusiastically supported trillion dollar unnecessary lie-based warfare in the past (Iraq especially).

      March 28, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
    • homeschool23

      Seriously, Jo Jo, watch and read more than MSMBC please. The wars were justified and authorized by a DEMOCRATIC Congress.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • mm

      @homeschool: your name says it all. Maybe it is you who needs to educate yourself. You know, a REAL education. Not the kind sitting around mama's kitchen table with other mental midgets as in your educator and fellow students.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • JoJo

      Seriously homeschool23, watch and read more than Faux News.

      "The concept of preventive war does not appear in The Catechism of the Catholic Church. ……There were NOT sufficient reasons to unleash a war against Iraq. ……It was right to resist the war.” Pope Benedict XVI

      “It is essential not to lose sight of the moral dimension of war. ……..The War in Iraq did not even come close to satisfying the requirements of a just war.” Ron Paul.

      “I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil.” Alan Greenspan, 2007, Chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve 1987-2006.

      Religions’ stances on the War in Iraq;
      http://www.beliefnet.com/News/2003/03/Your-Religions-Stance-On-Iraq.aspx

      "I have indicated it was not in conformity with the U.N. Charter. From our point of view, from the charter point of view, it was illegal." Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan, speaking on the American invasion of Iraq, September 16, 2004.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • Homeschool23 Tries to Re-write History

      Homeschool23 needs more "home schooling." Couple things. Both the Senate and the House were controlled by republicans when those wars were "approved." That is a fact. Second, Bush II/Cheney lied to congress and the American people to get "approval" for the Iraq War. It was an illegal war that has done an incredible amount of damage to this country. Where in the world do you get your information?

      March 28, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • homeschool23

      Tom Smith, an ultrasound is standard procedure for every abortion. I know this to be true because I had 2. So it is not a new law but it does require that the information from the ultrasound be given to the patient instead of pretending it is a bit of useless flesh the patient will see the living baby. You might want to check your facts before you spew.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • JoJo

      Homeschool23: "....The wars were justified and authorized by a DEMOCRATIC Congress..." Certainly, the Democrats deserve part of the initial blame, however, you left out that they were LIED to by Bush, Cheney, Rove, etc.

      March 28, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • homeschool23

      SO not one democrat was in power at the time? And 2 men convinced 100 members of the House and Senate to vote for a war without checking on facts? You try to rewrite history. NOT me. The amount of men and women lost to those wars are appalling and I thought we should bomb them and make a parking lot of it. But no, we relieve the dictators and murderer who was oppressing those people and let them keep the oil. As usual. If it were for oil we would have it wouldn't we? Failed logic on your side.

      March 28, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • Tom Smith

      So as not to use a "libal media bias" tell me which sources you feel present the facts and I will give you the references.

      March 28, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • slp

      You seem to know alot about "most" churches. Let's see...Ater Hurricane Katrina, my church had a two day long drive where we took up donations and brought in items to take to the gulf coast for the victims. A group from my church, including my husband, took it down there and spent a week doing clean up. I was 7 months pregnant at the time so I didn't go. We take up money for and items for various charities around our area such as local women's shelters and for improverished kids. Last summer, we had a meal program where we served lunch (free of charge) to kids in the community who always get there two meals a day at school but go hungry during the summer. We plan to do that this summer. We take our youth to our local soup kitchen twice a month to work for a day. Our youth also go around the community doing yard work for those in our community who are down and out. My husband and some other men at our church get up every Saturday morning and go buy and cook breakfast for our local men's shelter. I could go on and on but hey, you just like to pretend that we only serve Wednesday night supper and an AWANA program. By the way, most of our AWANA program consist of community kids that we go and pick up on our church bus. We serve them a meal, love them, and tell them about Jesus.

      March 28, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • JoJo

      Dictators in Sudan and other parts of the world are MUCH worse than Saddam ever was but we invaded Iraq to ensure cheap oil access.

      March 28, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • Tom Smith

      Never mind. I'll make it easy:

      Fact – there is a proposed law in Virginia to require an ultrasound to get an abortion.

      Fact – this law would make Virginia the 8th state to require this procedure.

      Opinion – 8 out of 50 is in no way "standard procedure."

      March 28, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
  15. Seriously?

    Every human being gets an opinion, and every human being should get a forum. Glenn Beck doesn't qualify... and shouldn't get one.

    March 28, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
    • drb

      Good One!! And True.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • homeschool23

      So why are here commenting. Surely someone as HUMAN as you have better things to do than be a troll.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
    • MAFF

      Did he say something wrong? As the government makes cuts, let we the people pick up the slack and be charitable. Dont just pay taxes, give to a good cause and see it through, with a cheerful heart. Is this wrong simply because its Beck?

      March 28, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
  16. Robert Gillen

    How about we give to education instead of give to Churches!!

    Why do we build a church on every corner and not schools on every corner?

    March 28, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • momoya

      The Education System in america is more corrupt than the churches are.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
    • homeschool23

      Because governments build schools and private citizens build churches. That is why there are so many of them. No Beauracracy.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
  17. Blah!!

    I think the point would be that goverment is force I dont think christians are against those things but more against goverment stealing from us to supply it

    March 28, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
  18. palintwit

    "Then he held up the Etch-A-Sketch and Sarah Palin said, 'Hey, give me back my iPad.'” –Bill Maher

    March 28, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
  19. smokin1011

    Republicans always want to shrink the size of government, but never the military, which is part of the government and spends the biggest chunk of tax dollars. The party of ultimate contradictions.

    March 28, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • momoya

      It would take less than 10% of the US military's budget to provide clean water and very basic food and clothing to EVERY starving or impoverished person ACROSS THE GLOBE.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • GodPot

      "Republicans always want to shrink the size of government"

      They say they "want" to shrink it, but they never do which is proof that they do not "want" to shrink it for themselves, just for people of income brackets or skin color that don't match their own.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
    • homeschool23

      Except Momya, the governments of those locales don't want their citizens to have clean water and food. If they are starving and thirsty they can't overthrow the dictator governments. Real world here. Not ideal. You may fee better if you hook up with an organization that is really doing something about that, but it is a Christian group providing wells and sinks and stoves, and houses to third world countries, so you may not approve.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • momoya

      Well, you said it: 'If they are starving and thirsty they can't overthrow the dictator governments."

      If we could get them food and water, then they'll overthrow their governments. And at a much cheaper price than if we did it with explosives and bullet ridden corpses of our young men and women.

      March 28, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
  20. ToldUso

    CNN giving a forum to Glen Beck is just another example of their liberal media bias.......

    March 28, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • Derp

      Yeah, CNN is better than most news outlets as far as bias. But the bias is still there.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
    • drb

      Bias is everywhere!

      March 28, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.